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Ban Vinai Camp
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Ban Vinai Camp


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Published in: News & Politics
  • Forgot to mention the beautiful silver work produced by Hmong silversmiths, extremely talented, they worked entirely by hand and with antiquated equipment but produced some of the most beautiful silver jewelry I have ever seen. At present, Hilltribe jewelry is very valuable and desired. After the camp closed in 1992 many silversmiths had relocated to other countries, particularly the United States. Minnesota has a large number of Hmong refugees. The silver products they now produce in freedom is just as beautiful and I assume now they use modern equipment for that art. We own several pieces of silver jewelry, including two completed belts, that were purchased during my trips to Ban Vinai. It was an unforgettable experience. The I&NS Team from the American Embassy in Bangkok was formed by Officers who were very close to each other. We are all retired but still stay in touch with each other, even meet every year at different States. Two of our group have since passed away but most if not all of us have photographs of those days in the Land of Smiles (Thailand) and the refugee camp adventures.
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  • I was one of the US Immigration Officers who made the trip to Ban Vinai several times between 1988 and 1992. Hmong hill tribes were known for their close family ties, they were persecuted by the Lao regime after the Viet Nam war because they helped American troops. Their needle work is beautiful and all done by hand. I often stopped to watch groups of women working on the same piece such as bedspreads. I purchased several from them, as well as the typical history needle work which tells many stories, such as communist soldiers chasing and shooting Hmong groups, life in a Hmong village, groups of people swimming across the Mekong to reach safety in Thailand and subsequent interviews by US Officials, and lastly a plane that would take them to America. This is a favorite cloth and I treasure the one I have. During my interviews I noticed that many of them did not want to leave Thailand. Many elderly men were addicted to opium and were sent to a recovery program until they were clean, it rarely happened, the elderly wives usually decided to remain with the husbands. I feel fortunate to have been part of this history during my assignment to Bangkok.
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  • 1. Ban Vinai
  • 2. This picture shows the location of the Ban Vinai Refugee camp where many Hmong were placed after the war.
  • 3. After viewing the this picture you are able to sense a lot of things from it. For instance, you can tell by the many people holding umbrellas that the sun had to be fierce. They used the umbrellas to shield their faces and wore protective clothing from the powerful sun’s rays. The lack of vegetation also hints the hot weather and lack of rain at the time. Also, note that the majority of the people are in one big group. From this I can sense all of the family’s closeness.
  • 4. This here shows the bamboo homes the families stayed in while at the camp.
  • 5. This is a more recent picture of a family staying at Ban Vinai. This picture was taken in 1991, about a year before the camp was closed in 1992.
  • 6. This allows you to see that the houses were falling apart and rather run down. The ground was covered with mud and the baby is full of it and naked. This is not an ideal place to raise a child.
  • 7. A look at the mountains that the Yang family often dreamed of going back to. They wished to go back to be with the spirit of the grandfather of Kao.
  • 8. Two Hmong story cloth telling ones experience of The Ban Vinai Camp.
    This story cloth was created in the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp by a woman named Mrs. NkajZebVaj. It tells the story of the migration of the Hmong people. During the Vietnam War Hmong helped the United States defend Laos from the communist forces. North Vietnam came after them and they were forced to flee. They fled to Thailand but were not wanted there for long. They would be shipped overseas to countries such as America. Many Hmong families reside in America in places such as the Missoula Valley ( You can see such story cloths in museums such as The Montana Museum of Art and Culture.
  • 9. Resources
    To learn more information about Ban Vinai, other Refugee Camps, and other information please visit the sites provided for you below.
    Hmong Needlework: Traditions Both Ancient and New
    Hidden Treasure
    Refugee Camps
    The Refugee Experience in Thailand